Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hanging Wires to go Underground, Budget hotels to get facelift ahead of 2010 Commonwealth Games

The tangled mesh of cable TV, internet and telephone wires on every electric pole will soon disappear from the skyline of the capital’s central business district and the cheek-by-jowl shops and motels will get a facelift ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The power ministry, empowered to light up the city for the Games, has initiated steps to clear the mess overhead, and the tourism ministry is cleaning up the squalor around the budget hotels in Paharganj and Karol Bagh earmarked to meet the demand for accommodation.

The tourism ministry’s decision to identify 11,000 rooms in 500-odd hotels and lodges for upgradation is a cause for celebration for the residents of the two congested areas. The infrastructure revamp is expected to be completed by June, four months before the Oct 3-14 Games.

“Many of these hotels and small restaurants badly need sprucing up and cleaning up of the squalor around. Some don’t fulfill required standards. So, we have asked the hotel owners to upgrade their rooms and install elevators,” a senior tourism department official told.

The motels and guest houses, some of which are badly maintained, will be graded by the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) once the renovations are over.

“They can claim recognition and we can help them to expand their market. We will put them in category A, B and C on the basis of services and facilities provided,” DTTDC general manager Kulanand Joshi told.

The official said that category B and C hotels would not be recommended for international tourists. These hotels are undergoing major renovation work and have been asked to ensure basic standards of safety and fire regulations.

Hoteliers are cock-a-hoop and see it as a golden opportunity to improve their business prospects.

“Paharganj is known the world over for its budget hotels. Our rooms are centrally air-conditioned and now the government is lending a helping hand to prepare us for the Games,” said Naresh Kumar, director of the three-star Shiva Intercontinental hotel in Paharganj.

He said the government is not only improving civic infrastructure in the area but also carrying out a daily work audit, besides training the hotel staff.

“Delhi Finance Minister A.K. Walia visited the place a couple of days ago and officials of the Delhi government licensing department are reviewing the work progress on a regular basis. There was a management workshop for our staff at the Pusa Institute for Hotel Management a few weeks ago,” said Kumar, who owns two more budget hotels in the area.

“There was a need to identify rooms which are close to the Games venues as well as connected to the tourist destinations and prominent markets in central Delhi which tourists would like to visit,” Joshi said.

The proximity of these hotels to the New Delhi railway station and to the Delhi Metro, which would connect central Delhi to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, was also a key reason for pushing ahead with the project. The room tariff, depending on services, can be between Rs.100 and Rs.1, 500 a night.

Tourism secretary Shudip Bannerjee inspected some hotels in the areas and the government has now released a whopping Rs.6 billion to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for development works in the area which will see a multilevel parking lot besides the improvement in basic amenities.

“All the hanging cables would go underground, while work on street-scaping and lighting has already begun and new signages would come up soon.” the official said.

Residents here are enthusiastic about the development.

“I often go to these hotels to eat. It’s always bustling and you get amazing food. But the dirty, crowded streets with hanging wires overhead are a put-off. It is good that the area is being done up as it will be a boon for the people in the neighborhood,” said Sachin Malhotra, a Karol Bagh resident.

Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja has instructed officials of her ministry to expedite the work as 30,000 additional hotel rooms were required in and around Delhi for the Games. She has said that “all hotel projects coming up for the Games should be ready by June 2010″.